NEC PowerMate ML460 Pro review

£639
Price when reviewed

NEC has been a stalwart of PC Pro’s business PC group tests for years now, and has enjoyed its fair share of success thanks to good build quality, competitive pricing and a wide range of deployment options. The PowerMate ML460 Pro utilises some of Intel’s key standards, and takes the fight to larger companies such as Dell and HP.

NEC PowerMate ML460 Pro review

The ML460 complies with Intel’s major initiatives for business PCs – SIPP (Stable Image Platform Program) and the recently launched vPro. SIPP ensures platforms remain compatible and supported over a set period, while vPro is a more complex standard that allows out-of-band access to enable system administrators to access information about a PC’s specifications, or turn it on to remotely install critical patches.

The specification on review here has a Core 2 Duo E6600, with each core running at a speed of 2.4GHz. Backed up by 2GB of RAM, the system tore through our benchmarks, producing an extremely fast score of 1.38. This represents enormous overkill for most offices – even large, high-resolution photo libraries or high-end applications will present no real challenge for the ML460. This embarrassment of power is going to affect all vPro systems for a while, as Core 2 Duo is a requirement for the certification, and performance will only be fully utilised once more common use of process-hungry features such as virtualisation are used.

The 160GB hard disk is a similarly top-end component for a business PC, while the DVD writer is another addition more suited to home users than most office workers – it’s compatible with all formats of DVD including dual-layer.

The PowerMate’s security features are impressive. A TPM chip is integrated onto the motherboard, although there’s no specific software supplied to make use of it. The BIOS detects chassis intrusion via a button on the front of the chassis – when the lid is on, the button is pushed in and, if it’s released and then repressed, the BIOS will visually and audibly alert you the next time the system is turned on.

NEC’s previous, rather dated-looking chassis has been replaced by a new model, and it’s a vast improvement. It’s tiny, for a start – easily small enough to sit unobtrusively underneath a TFT. It’s also next to silent, save for an audible whoosh before the system finishes POSTing. The exterior is fairly spartan, although six USB ports, a parallel port and a serial port should prove more than sufficient for most. Opening the system doesn’t take so much as a screwdriver, and removing key parts of it for replacement is equally convenient.

The hard disk is mounted upside down above the motherboard on a plastic mounting plate, swinging upwards once the lid is off. There isn’t much upgrade potential – there’s a spare SATA port, but no accompanying drive bay, while the 2GB of RAM takes up the full complement of DIMM sockets. There is at least a full-height PCI slot free, courtesy of a riser card installed in the only spare PCI socket.

Our reservations about the ML460 Pro are the same as they were for Fujitsu Siemens’ new range of Esprimo systems. vPro specifies a wealth of processing power that can currently only be described as excessive: you don’t need this much processing speed or this specification for a typical business PC. Even if you upgrade to Vista, an E6600 CPU and 2GB of RAM will be overpowered. So, unless you’re rolling out these PCs to a whole company, and you’re absolutely sure you’ll use vPro’s management features and the extra horsepower on offer, it’s very difficult to justify the £200 extra over the cost of, say, the Fujitsu Siemens Esprimo E5600.

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